Friday, July 15, 2011

Neurons Firing - Final Post

This class was not what I expected it to be, but I did learn about the world around us and functions within us as a result of taking it. As someone else also remarked, it seemed to be a course more focused on biology; as opposed to the more psychology-based curriculum I thought it would entail. However, it was an interesting course. As a student taking this course one can expect to learn about how the senses work together to help an individual perceive the outside world and function effectively within it. Another aspect studied was how the brain works to allow a person to perceive, and what regions of the brain are activated in various processes. One student's post referred to homeostasis, and that perception has a lot to do with maintaining it. This had occurred to me as well, since homestasis is vital in our bodies and environments. If a person cannot perceive pain (as is the case in some medical instances that some people cannot) one can be hurt or unaware of an unsafe environment. If a person were not to perceive thirst his or her body could result in being dehydrated.
It is interesting to attempt to grasp how much goes on in our everyday functioning that we are unaware of, but without it we may not survive. There are some cases in which a person can survive even without a sense functioning at its best, but it would be a different lifestyle than that which he or she is accustomed to now - particularly if a person had grown up knowing a sense and experiencing a loss. For instance, to be colorblind is not particularly uncommon and does not seem detrimental. People grow up not knowing otherwise and are accustomed to it. People can survive this way. If a person who had never experienced what it was to be colorblind suddenly lost ability to recognize colors of the spectrum this could be a terrible inconvenience and must learn to adapt. In a more drastic situation I learned of a story years ago of a young lady who was due to lose her hearing after surgery to remove a brain tumor. She knew that having this surgery would leave her unable to hear, but not having this surgery would cost her own life. She made a film to recall all of the wonderful sounds she experienced during her years living as a hearing-abled individual. She filmed herself at the beach to enable her look back on that experience, met her favorite musician (Matt Nathanson) and learned to use sign language to some of her favorite songs, among other activities and sentimental experiences she documented.
We often take all of these processes and experiences for granted - ocean waves, a barking pup that often distracts us, or even the clicking away at a keyboard as we type. As I stated, we can live with one or some of our senses not working to peak efficiency. It is marvelous, though, how our bodies and specifically our brains function, adapt, and maintain homeostasis.
Specifically some parts of this course I enjoyed learning about were topics I discussed in previous posts or comments I left on others' posts. The concept of binding reminds us of how many processes go into any one perception. To perceive an object different regions of the brain are activated to assess particular qualities or components of an object - location, movement, size, or shape. These qualities all come together in our brain to perceive one (as the text referred to it) coherent object. This idea, again, reminds me of all that goes into sense and perception. Not only are various regions of the brain activated to sense one whole being, but various senses come together to aid in perception. One's taste can be thrown off by loss of scent, balance altered by lack of vision. We can even consider how chemicals such as alcohol that have an affect on our brains then hinder our sense of coordination and delay response time. Another point I mentioned in a previous post was how social pain shows similar activity in the brain as physical pain. The fact that mental anguish can distress the body signals how human we really are.
I've viewed some videos, one being part of a series about perception. I initially thought to myself, the visual effects in this video are amazing. It feels as if the viewer is travelling through a series of tunnels, streets, opening doors, and even floating amid clouds. Audiences enjoy Pixar and other digitally animated movies frequently. We all may have heard someone comment at some point how far technology has come to create these masterpieces. It is the human brain that is the wonder we should really behold here. One point to consider is how advanced human brains are to perceive an image on a computer screen and feel as if we are moving, to look at a picture and realize it is just that, to sense and to feel - not only physically but emotionally.
Next let's consider a substance such as LSD, that another student wrote about, which is another interesting point. In the video clip posted a woman had the sensation of being "one". There exists a substance that can alter a person's perception entirely. The woman consuming the chemical can see and feel matter in the air, yet feels at one with everything. This is both allowing her to perceive separate qualities of things and bringing her together. This is almost a contradiction, but it makes perfect sense. We are all matter, surrounded by matter, never ceasing to exist. It may take different forms and be perceived differently - but it still exists. It makes me wonder, is this the mind at its most efficient - able to perceive everything; or is it at its most primal and basic state?
We were asked how much of what we've learned through the duration of this course relates to everyday. While everything in this course relates to daily activities another point was made by a student - continuity. Even in movies it often happens that something changes in a scene and we are not attending to this so it goes unnoticed. After being made aware of it and focusing our attention on it it is then that we recognize change. This is similar to the processes that go on everyday that we are unaware of, that is until it is pointed out to us.
All of these points come together and what this class has made more aware of than anything is this -that we are human. We are an advanced machine with many processes and functions taking place every second, yet we are more than a machine. We have thoughts, feelings, ideas, and an understanding of the world unlike that of any other living being in the world (that we have concrete knowledge of) and amid all of our similarities and differences exist together - as previously noted, maintaining homeostasis within ourselves and our environment. Neurons are always firing, until they cease to do so. In retrospect, this course seems to have turned out to be a sort of psychology course afterall - as it causes many of us to perceive the world differently.
"Create Your Reality"
YouTube Video as part of a series on Perception - Interesting Visual Effects
I have not viewed the other videos in the series, but I am inclined to do so in the future. It seems it may be geared toward a motivational or change-your-life market and audience from what I've seen thus far; forms of perception can have a great deal to do with as well though.
The image above is Painting from Alex Grey.
The young lady I mentioned that was scheduled to have surgery rendering her unable to hear was shown on a special that I believe was aired on Good Morning America. It was aired in 2008 and I am uncertain as to whether she was releasing a full-length documentary or special. This story was titled "Thirty Days to Hear". I've attempted to search for it on YouTube in the years since with failed attempts. Admittedly, I have not gone to great lengths to search for it; but I intend to continue to search for it by other means and learn of any updates on her since. As I mentioned one of her favorite musicians was Matt Nathanson and a particular song was discussed and played on this segment; the song was All We Are. This may not be the biological form of perception we've focused on in much of this course, but we have learned of social perception as well. This is one song that I will continue to have an interesting perception toward due to the conditions under which I learned of it. If anyone is ever able to view this special, it could change your perception on how often we take for granted our own senses. We are all, afterall, (only) human.
Jessica M. Lynch

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